The Soapbox: This Might Sound Crazy, But Let’s Bring Back Good Manners In Dating

Over the summer, I had a first date with an attractive, smart guy who emailed me over an online dating site. C— was Harvard-educated, a lawyer, and a dead ringer for the actor Terrance Howard (i.e. super hot). We had a lovely conversation and was a total gentleman until the end of the date: he paid for our drinks, walked me to the train, and kissed me on the lips before telling me he wanted to see me again soon.

I texted him the next day to say “thank you for drinks!” I never heard back. Not a single peep. I got “ghosted.”

Well, I never heard back for three months, anyway. One afternoon, I randomly received this text message from C—:

Hey Jess, it’s C—. I don’t have a great excuse for why I fell off the planet. I got really busy and things got messy with an ex that I didn’t want to be bothered with while pursuing something new. If you are still interested, I’d like to see you.

I didn’t go out with him, of course. By the point C— finally got back to me, I’d already been scooped up by another man. But C—’s ghosting was not the only reason I was over him: I thought C— was rude. In the days/weeks following our date when C— didn’t respond to my thank you text/did not contact me any other way at all, I got the message loud and clear that he was not interested. I also got the message that I wasn’t worth responding to

I assumed — wrongly — that C— hadn’t been attracted to me. I told myself that maybe I wasn’t pretty enough; maybe I was too fat or my ass was too big. C— was really quite good-looking and I fretted that he dated “hotter” girls than me. I assumed all these things — again, wrongly — because I couldn’t think of a better explanation of why a guy would walk me to the train, kiss me, tell me he wanted to see me again, and then completely disappear.

I thought of C— again yesterday when the infamous 1,615-word i-banker email started making the rounds. If you have not read it yet, you should. Some clueless dude called “Mike” went on one date with a gal named “Lauren,” who ignored his subsequent voicemail and text message. When he sent a rambling 1,615-word email wondering why she was ignoring him and demanding she call him to apologize, she posted it on Reddit. It’s painful to read.

Some people have pointed out that “Mike” may have an emotional or mental illness, which makes laughing at his email rather cruel. Others say he’s just a classic big-swinging-dick Wall Street douchebag. (Take it from us NYC-based ladies, they exist.) While I am sensitive to the first theory that “Mike” has some issues, I ultimately think it doesn’t matter what his problem is. Why? Because I think she handled this all wrong.

Here me out: I would like to propose a dating rule, of sorts, one that I wish we could apply retroactively to “Lauren”‘s situation. This dating rule applies to both women and men. It applies to both C— and to “Lauren,” to “Mike” and to me, to you and you and you and you and you.

My proposal is this:

If you do not want to go on a second date, or a third date, firmly but politely tell the other person over email or text, “I am sorry, but I do not feel a spark between us.” Then you hit “send.” And that’s it.

It’s mature. It’s clear. And it’s easy.  It is courteous.  There is no reason we should all not be doing this.

American women and girls are taught to be deferential to men. If a guy is flirting with us at a bar, trying to get our number, even if we are not interested in him, many of us will give the guy our digits just to shut him up and then ignore the ensuing calls and texts. I’ve definitely done that before so that  I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable by rejecting the guy. But can you blame me? We are taught to be considerate of men’s egos and men’s feelings, oftentimes prioritizing them before our own so we don’t look like a “bitch” or “mean.” But instead of communicating clearly and standing firm, we end up muddling the situation. I am no different in this way — I’ve done lots of stupid stuff in my past where I didn’t just tell a guy “no, not interested,” despite the fact it would have saved everyone lots of time and grief. Why have I done stuff like that? Because it’s hard not to feel like you’re being mean if you hurt a guy’s ego (which, as I just stated, is treated like The Most Important Thing Ever). 

But it’s stupid to miscommunicate like that when being clear and firm is so easy. There, I said it. It is stupid. Instead of being afraid to say “no” so we don’t look like a bitch, we give the guy hope that he has a chance with us. But then we ignore his phone calls, which a) makes us look like a bitch anyway, and b) communicates poorly what we really mean. And communicating poorly what we really mean is stupid because it hurts all of us. We are all in this big crappy dating pool together and call me a hippie, but courtesy is contagious. 

You might think that after one date (or two dates, or three dates), if the other person disappears without an explanation, you shouldn’t care. It was only one date! Well, reality check: people do care. “Mike” read into “Lauren”‘s hair-flipping and eye contact. And while I think he should get a clue that normal women flip their hair and make eye contact on the regular, I empathize. I myself read into C—’s behavior, at first assuming he was as interested as he behaved. I thought his kiss and telling me he wanted a second date “soon” actually meant something. Call me crazy, but I take people at their word (er, lips).

When I texted to say “thank you” (or whenever he realized we weren’t going to go out soon), C— should have taken 10 seconds to do the courteous thing and text back.  C— didn’t even need to tell me the truth about his ex (if that was indeed the truth); all he needed to do was not ignore me. He could have told me “I had a great time, but I didn’t feel a spark” or — if he really did want to go on a second date with me at some point in the future — “you’re great, but I realized I’m not at a good place to date right now. Best of luck!” I would have been a little disappointed to be turned down, sure. But any of those responses would have been preferable to the days/weeks of fearing that I was too fat, too ugly, too utterly undateable to be worth C—’s time to write me back. (Yes, I practice what I preach: I texted C— back and told him I wasn’t interested anymore, he texted back “Oh, OK,” and that was that. See? Easy.)  Hearing from C— again three months later did make me feel relieved that I was not, in fact, an ugly troll, but it also made me think he was rude.

I really, truly believe that the way near-strangers treat each other in the dating world is just awful. Sending a rant-y 1,615 word email to a woman you want on only one date with really sucks. Insulting her and demanding an apology is entitled. But not having the common courtesy to say “no” and ignoring someone instead? That sucks, too.

Rejection does not feel good for anybody. Let’s at least make it courteous.

Contact the author of this post at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.